There’s been a lot of bad news recently around hazing and bullying in sports and society in general. Just this week we heard about a professional football player who gave up the game and a nearly $800,000 salary because he could not handle the pressure of his peers. No one can dispute these mean-spirited acts in male-dominated sports are not to be tolerated. So I was a little apprehensive when the Devil announced we would be hosting a team “Rookie Party” a couple of weeks ago. We have three younger rookie, i.e. first-year midget players, on the squad though nearly the entire team is new to this Midget A level. She assured me it was all going to be in good fun and that the three rookies in question were on-board. Against my better judgment I agreed to let the festivities proceed; under my roof no less. I figured this would provide a good bonding opportunity. Hockey Momma and I would be on-site to semi-supervise should there be any questionable behaviour.
The rookie “initiation”, over two months into the season no less, would begin with sending two of the three victims to the wrong address; a prank lost on the third who’d already visited our house on more than one occasion. Most of the team arrived early to watch the first unwitting rookie get dropped off then walk up and ring the doorbell across the street only to be greeted by our eight year old neighbour. Seconds later as she turned in confusion the team broke out in laughter and beckoned her to join the party on the right side of the street. The laughter derived from this first gag would be continuously echoed over the next several hours.
With no hockey scheduled until the next night, several more players shuffled in with sleeping and overnight bags in tow – 13 of 17 would arrive with only a couple members either having to work, unable to secure a ride or feeling under the weather. Their lack of presence was duly noted and missed by those in attendance. One stalwart teammate even made a brief appearance, despite having three wisdom teeth removed only 24 hours prior.
Our team captain, of her own accord, arrived with a special sign decreeing the “Rookie Rules”:
I think the sign speaks for itself and befitting this team is chock full of musical references. Mind you, I don’t need to know anything about how one “twerks it out”.
I’ve said on a few occasions this season if pre-game music volume was a determining factor in a team’s success, we’d come out on top every time. Case in point…just a couple of weeks ago our crew was getting ready for a tourney game while another game was in progress. The two teams from the prior game came off the ice between the second and third periods. This would be the time when coaches would have a quick pep talk and perhaps relay some tactical information before the final period. But as I walked down the hall towards our dressing room, the walls were literally shaking due to the beats blasting from behind our door. I almost felt like apologizing to the other teams and may have felt the glare of a couple of opposing staff members as I walked by. Though who am I to quell the pre-game rituals of a bunch of teenage girls. I will further point out that we won our first game of the year on the heels of the auditory deluge.
Back to the Rookie Party, where the next ritual followed the musical theme and involved dressing the three minor subjects in Elf costumes to partake in some early Christmas carolling. I am sure a few of my neighbours were taken aback when the answered their doors to be greeted by “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” as 10 young ladies giggled uncontrollably while crouching behind the shrubs in their front yard. The rookies, to their credit, were more than willing sacrificial elves.
The rest of the event was confined to our basement, which had been lovingly decorated by the Devil with nearly every Christmas light we own. Our downstairs was a veritable festival of colour. Other tongue-firmly-in-cheek tasks were reportedly assigned to the rookies and other team members equally. As the evening proceeded, amidst an unending chorus of familiar teenage squealing and laughter, Hockey Momma and I ushered down pizza, wings, meatballs, veggies, chips and dips; most of which were consumed in due course. Each time I descended I was greeted with “Hey Coach”, “Thanks Coach” or “Sorry about the objectionable language Coach.” And yes, there was unsurprisingly some of that from this rowdy bunch of teenage athletes – nothing I haven’t heard from them from behind the bench on occasion as they’ve returned from a particularly gruelling on-ice battle.
Being admittedly something of a Twitterholic and part-time online creeper I saw the occasional Tweet originating from my basement, espousing the virtues of the Rookie Party in familiar teenage lingo accompanied by an ample emoticons ;-p, ♥, etc. In one case, I actually noted a player from an unrelated local team, tweeting her envy of our club’s extra curricular festivities.
Momma and I retired to bed around midnight and the din of bass-laden beats subsided about an hour later. I continued to hear sporadic giggling for another 30 minutes. The clock on the wall said the next day’s practice had a pretty good chance of being unproductive with a weary bunch. Actually, I knew already the pickings would be slim as several players told me they had previous commitments to a country music concert, a university tour, work or a variety of other priorities. While I hope for full attendance at all practices, I recognize the midget-aged girls do have busy lives outside of hockey and they have to be given some leeway.
The next morning probably came earlier than many of them, or I for that matter, hoped, but the echo of giggling two floors below me resumed around 8:30am. Momma and I dutifully prepared a breakfast smorgasbord for the seven remaining players; some had already left to attend to some of their aforementioned priorities. A night of laughing apparently fuelled appetites as the food disappeared nearly as quickly as it was prepared.
Parents would arrive shortly thereafter to gather their weary kids and each would slowly depart, but not before saying thank you a half-dozen times or so. The good manners displayed by each was heartening. The Rookie Party, by all accounts, was an unequivocal success. The “Rookie Rules” sign was claimed by one of the hazees who said it would be given a spot on her bedroom wall.
While the girls reported having had tons of fun, the hockey coach hopes the occasion served to bring the group even closer together as a means to positive on-ice results. I dare say any team could only but benefit from this team’s fun-hearted hazing session. And the best part is I had almost nothing to do with it.